The Big Picture in Bank Robberies And Animation Art

The picture above is an actual frame from the surveillance video of the Brick bank robber. (No, he didn’t use a brick to rob a bank; he robbed a bank last month in Brick, New Jersey). A real robbery; an actual picture; if you recognize the gent with the head bandage, contact Brick Detective James Burgess at (732) 262-1120.

Most likely you won’t be able to recognize the man in the photo. He’s far from the camera. And it’s surveillance video, after all.

But let’s suppose, for a moment, that you and I were watching a dramatic TV show. A team of detectives are watching this video.

One of them shouts out, “Stop it right there! That’s our guy! Zoom in on his face!” There’s a clish-clish-clish-clish sound effect as a series of lines travel across the screen, forming smaller and smaller rectangles. The smallest rectangle flashes a few times, then zooms out full, and we see this:

Another character says, “Don’t you see? He was wearing the head bandage to try to cover up that tattoo of a butterfly above his right eye… but the bandage slipped back! Can we get tighter on that?”


The star of the show says, “Bobby, go through all the mug books and pull out every picture of a guy with a butterfly tattooed over his right eye.”

OK. Let’s take a deep breath.

Can I see some hands out there? How many of you own a digital camera? Right. Well, presumably, then, you know something about resolution and image size.

In the real world, when you zoom in the first time, you’d get roughly this:

Looks like Fatty Arbuckle taking a pie. And the second time you enlarge, you get this:

There he is! That’s our man! Bobby, go through all the mug books and pull out every picture of a guy with a mixture of Pantone Cool Gray 8 and Pantone Cool Gray 4 over his right eye!

We’ll return to picture size and resolution in a moment. First, though…

When you add a Sitemeter to your blog, you learn a little about the people who stop by. Sitemeter tells you how many people are looking at your blog right now, and how many have stopped by in the last hour, day, week, month, and year. There’s no “personally identifiable information, ” but you can see where in the world a visitor is, how many pages that visitor looked at, and how long that visitor stayed.

There are always enough one-second visits to keep anyone humble.

The most useful aspect of Sitemeter data is the clickable list of “referring pages.”

This tells you where people were on the web just before they clicked a link to visit you. So when somebody references or recommends your blog elsewhere on the web, you can easily go there to see what, if anything, the referring page had to say.

When you get lucky, and gain a mention and link on a highly trafficked site, like BoingBoing, for example, (and that happened here once) you instantly see why your numbers spiked. The list of referring pages will likely show the BoingBoing link over and over again. This allows you to a) acknowledge and thank the referring blog or web page, and b) work really hard to make sure your next post is halfway decent, to encourage window shoppers surfing by to stay, perhaps even return.

Guess where the vast majority of visitors to this blog find the link that leads them here?

Google Image Search. I never would have guessed it.

Google Image Search accounts for something like 90 to 95% of all Isn’t Life Terrible visitors.

I have a theory about this.

Want to see the theory illustrated? Click on the picture below, then come back.

Since Blogger automatically reduces the size of pictures posted to fit the available blog width, clicking on a picture sometimes takes you to a larger version of that same picture. Not the case with the picture above, though, where WYSIWYG.

Some blogs don’t seem to want you to download and save a picture that’s posted.

Not terribly friendly or welcoming, is it?

Of course, there can be valid financial reasons to do this – if you created and own the pictures and wish to license them, for example.

But on a blog like this one, there’s no reason to “protect” pictures. (And there’s an excellent way around difficult to download pictures, anyway).

As a matter of fact, since we now know that the majority of people come here looking for images, it would be pretty stupid to make access difficult.

I suddenly realized – and I’m sure all the Search Engine Optimization gurus out there know this – that Google Image Search lists the images it finds more or less in size order, with the largest images often on the first page of results.

So that’s why I keep stumbling into results from my own blog when I go looking for images – the simple fact that I usually post pictures full-size here. I was optimizing my search engine visibility and didn’t even know it.

Maybe this blog will run out of space or bandwidth someday, but in the meantime, the pictures here will usually link to larger versions. For example… click on this one.

See? I said we’d return to the topic of resolution.

With access to a large file, you can “re-mix” the picture, reframe it, even grab a small detail, as I did here. You can use it. Not commercially, of course, but who knows, maybe you’ll write the definitive appreciation of Pinocchio someday and need an illustration. You could pull ten different pictures out of this one cel-and-original-background set-up, thanks to its size.

Downside? We didn’t even get to say goodbye to all the people with slow connections – they all left a long time ago.

I would be willing to bet that some blogs I love… like John McElwee’s Greenbriar Picture Shows… link to large, high-resolution images just because… well, just because “why wouldn’t you?” After all, Lee Hartsfeld’s Music You (Probably) Won’t Hear Anywhere Else links to complete music files from shellac and vinyl so obscure that Lee could remove the parenthetical modifier any time he wanted to. (And, speaking parenthetically myself, I’d like to thank both of these gentlemen for the Premio Dardo nominations. Lee correctly points out that the chain-letter aspect of these awards could crash Google, but… it’s the thought that counts.)

Someday, that bank over in Brick will “up” the file size and resolution of their security cameras and those laughable, infinitely zoomable images currently available only on fictional television shows willing to stretch a point (or pixel) will become a tad less absurd.

A few final words after some astonishing, huge, hi-res images of original art from Disney films. Some of the regulars here can probably identify not only the film but also the artist before they click. Probably not for the first one, though…

The final words: please note that all of the non-bank robbery-related pictures in this post came from the listings of Heritage Auction Galleries. They’re all for sale in a upcoming auctions, and all available for viewing in a size and resolution that allows you to savor and appreciate each stroke of the brush and line of the pencil. If you go to Heritage (and you should), turn off the pan and scan feature, click on the picture, and you’ll see the whole enchilada.

Those Heritage people… they get the big picture… they post the big picture… and that may be one reason they get the big bucks.

A fraction of the Heritage inventory, from top to bottom: The Steeple Chase (1934), Truant Officer Donald (1941), Peter Pan (1953 – Mary Blair), Mickey’s Service Station (1935), Sleeping Beauty (1955 – Eyvind Earle), Mickey Plays Papa (1934), Alpine Climbers (1936), Peter Pan (1953 – Mary Blair), Babes In The Woods (1933), Lady And The Tramp (1955, Eyvind Earle).

The final picture immediately above is an actual frame from the surveillance video of the Attempted Woodcarver Break-In. (No, it wasn’t the Woodcarver who was breaking in; there’s a Missing Person Report on file for him and police want to question the “little wooden boy” seen looking in the window). If you recognize the figure at the window or encounter Mister Geppetto, contact Detective G. Tenggren at (610) 566-7767.

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Scenes Of The Disney Studio Circa 1938

eBay Seller “tiqu” consistently puts excellent original Disney photos up for auction. Here are the current pictures up for bid:

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Cartoon Dump!

Cartoon Dump
is presented exclusively on the West Coast. Usually, it’s the West Coast of the country, but last night, it was the West Coast of Manhattan, and it further infuriated the New Yorkers who read about Dump (and other upcoming animation-related events) on Cartoon Brew by confirming our worst fears: we’ve been missing out on great entertainment because we insist on living in this backwater town.

Oh, sure, you can go over to the Cartoon Dump section of YouTube and see snippets of the show, and the hysterically awful semi-animated cartoons Jerry Beck has selected to showcase. But this is live theater we’re talking about here, with very talented, deeply funny performers. I’m telling you, I’ve seen Young Frankenstein on Broadway, and it’s strictly for tourists and chumps. Rent the DVD. Cartoon Dump packs twice the laughs into half the time.

Erica Doering is a relentlessly chipper comedic powerhouse; her cartoony voice and condescending showmanship suggest Hillary Clinton on helium. Frank Conniff gives a great deadpan performance (and had some great ad libs) as Moodsy, the Clinically Depressed Owl. This guy could just look at the audience and get a laugh. Kathleen Roll reminds me of Paula Prentiss (and that’s high praise); her Buff Badger not only provides angry historical context for the cartoons, but also fully explains the furry phenomenon for those who don’t quite get it. And of course, there’s animation legend Jerry Beck. (There is not a single animation legend anywhere in the 2 1/2 hours of Young Frankenstein, by the way).

I’m just hoping there was a Saturday Night Live scout somewhere among us who decides to sign the whole team up and keep Cartoon Dump in New York, where they belong.

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Name These Disney Artists/ FX Artists!

EBay seller Tiqu has these photos are up for auction – but none of those pictured are identified. I can’t put my hands on my copy of Illustrated Field Guide to Disney Personnel, so – can anybody make a positive ID?

“Disney artists earn while they learn the profession of animation. To them are entrusted the inconsequential bits of action. They are directly supervised by one of the regular animators.”

“Comparable to a set designer in a live-action studio is this man – a layout artist in Disney terminology. He is one of the artists who design the watercolor backgrounds used in the animated productions.”

“A corner of the sound effect department. Thousands of sounds, from frog croaks to train wheels, are filed away in little drawers.”

“The sound effects boys are on the verge of giving the pictured crates a tumble. The result will probably be a sound effect of Donald Duck taking a spill.”

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D.C. Heath, Purveyor Of Disney Books Par Excellence

Carl Barks didn’t get to sign his comics, and his readers referred to his stories as the ones “drawn by the good artist.”

I had the same exact feeling about the D.C. Heath Walt Disney Story Books.

The first four were published in 1939: Donald Duck and His Friends, Little Pig’s Picnic and Other Stories, School Days in Disneyville, and Mickey Never Fails. By the time I got my hands on these books, they had been in and out of the school library hundreds of times and were a bit worse for the wear. But there was something about these books, something I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

(That’s D.C. Heath on the right, by the way. I never knew what he looked like until this evening).

The drawings in the Heath books seemed to “pop.” Something about them seemed so real… and so right. Being perhaps 5 or 6 at the time, I understood little about animation. But I sensed, and I’m betting hundreds of other kids did as well, that these were real Walt Disney drawings that made all the other books look like crude knock-offs… in the much the same way Carl Barks Duck stories made the non-Barks stories pale and uninteresting by comparison.

There was a simple explanation, of course: the art in the D.C. Heath books was not only prepared by the Walt Disney studio, but prepared on cels that were inked and painted just the way they were in the cartoons. (Most of them, anyway. D. C. Heath’s Bambi doesn’t use cels at all. And remind me to come back to Bambi some time.)

They weren’t cels used in the features and shorts; they were cels made especially for the books. For once, the characters looked exactly right, exactly the way they did on the screen. For once, the color was nearly as vivid as an IB Tech print, something else I didn’t know about back then. Some color films were just better than others.

And at a dollar a piece (Donald Duck And His Friends, the first in the series was 68 cents) and 100+ pages, these things must have flown off the shelves. Schools bought them because they were carefully sequenced in reading difficulty. Here They Are might have had a much more interesting title if its vocabulary had not been so severely limited. Donald Duck Sees South America, the most challenging title, is still just a bit beyond me.

My favorite was, and is, Mickey Sees The USA, which used the trailer last seen in the cartoon Mickey’s Trailer (looks like a ‘36 Drayer and Hansen to me). Yes, a bit didactic at times, but when Mickey stops in Washington D.C., the President himself helps find the lost Pluto. After the President scolds Pluto, he asks something of Mickey, Minnie and Donald in return: “I want you to be my good-will messengers and carry my greetings to everybody in the United States. We have a wonderful country. But it’s up to every one of us to make it still finer and better.” Say, that guy could get elected today.

Every once in a while, a cel created for a D. C. Heath book goes up for auction somewhere. The last one I spotted was this one, the opening spread for Chapter 1 of Pinocchio.

This wasn’t some book pretending to be Pinocchio, this book was Pinocchio. It still punches through 67 years of yellowing in my copy.

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What Was Walt Like? According to Bill Peet…

…there was the “jovial, good natured Walt…” and then there was the one pictured above.

I’ve never been fully convinced that Bill Peet An Autobiography is a “picture book for children,” even though it was a runner-up for the Caldecott Medal, awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children to “the most distinguished picture book for children.”

Perhaps it’s because the book features a parade of “chain smoking neurotics,” Walt Disney among them.

Regardless, the book is spellbinding, still in print after nearly 20 years, and available from Amazon.

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The Studio Loan-Out/Crossover Of All Time

Can you imagine Woody Woodpecker singing “When You Wish Upon A Star?”

No? Then you may have trouble with a Fleischer character singing the Warner’s cartoon theme.

From Lee Hartsfeld.

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From The Author Of Risky Business And The Artist Behind A Top Secret Book…

Ah, Crusader Rabbit. The first made-for-TV cartoon. Please note: as it says on the front cover, and as it says on the back cover, this is the authorized edition.

What kind of characters do we want?

Our favorite characters.

What kind of stories do we want?

Authorized stories.

How well I remember the infamous bedtime story raids of the late 50’s and early 60’s.

My parents, of course, bought authorized editions exclusively. But I lost more than one friend in the massive “Cartoon Character Sting” of 1960, when the parents of close friends purchased “the unauthorized stuff,” and ultimately paid a steep price as they, and their pajama-clad children, were dragged off to the pokey, never to return.

Why insist on Authorized Editions?

To protect young minds, of course.

When transvestite little people are depicted in an authorized edition, it’s tasteful!

I’m happy to present “Bubble Trouble,” which, when its pages are turned rapidly, actually exhibits more animated movement than the Crusader Rabbit cartoons themselves.

Crusader Rabbit in “Bubble Trouble (.pdf file)

Did You Know?
Author Nancy Hoag also wrote Risky Business
Artist Jan Neely once worked on a top-secret project for a pair of Mormons.

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Greedy Is Good

This cel from Raggedy Ann and Andy (1977) is huge – 16 1/2″ inches long by 8″ high. Not all of the cel is shown, because my scanner does not have a Panavision setting. Most of the cel is taken up by “The Greedy,” an amorphous glob of taffy liberally suffused with lollipops, ice cream, gum balls, cherries, fudge sauce, and “Butterscotch and nuts that never stop.” As if that wasn’t bizarre enough, The Greedy constantly scoops up delectable parts of himself and eats them.

I wrote about the desire many of us have to see this film released on DVD. Its episodic nature is usually cited as one of the film’s faults (the other being too many songs) but this did allow for the creation of “set pieces,” some of which were star turns by legendary animators. None are more incredible than the Greedy, as animated by Emery Hawkins.

The cel above, like all Greedy cels, is only partially painted. Rather than laboriously apply huge amounts of orange-yellow paint to each cel, a large piece of colored paper was cut to match the Greedy’s outline. This also eliminated the potential for unwanted, distracting swirls of motion within large areas of paint. The jet-black sky was created with another piece of colored paper (this cel has been mounted on a white background).

I’ll link to the YouTube clip for those of you who want to see this scene in all its incredible motion, but be warned: the beauty of this scene is in the details as candy emerges from the taffy pit, is swallowed, and re-emerges. YouTube doesn’t have that kind of resolution, and doesn’t have widescreen, so you’ll be missing a lot. Another reason we need that DVD.

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More Early Cartoon Music MP3’s

Klaus Kinski ultimately portrayed the title character in Werner Herzog’s masterpiece Fitzcarraldo.

Kinski was not the director’s first choice, however. Neither was Jason Robards, who had signed on to play Fitzcarraldo and was fully four months into shooting when he contracted amoebic dysentery and left the Ecuadorian rain forest to return to the U.S. for medical care. His doctors forbade his return.

Herzog eventually gave the role to Kinski, but not before he renewed his knock-down, dragged-out fight with The Walt Disney Company, which refused to loan out Donald Duck for the role. (The duck’s success in The Three Caballeros and Saludos Amigos made him an obvious choice).

The still above is all that remains of the nearly two months the duck spent at the jungle location. Herzog was so enamored with the idea of an unintelligibly-voiced main character that when the duck bowed out, the decision was made to shoot the film entirely in German.

For your listening and downloading pleasure:

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf – Harry Reser and his Eskimos
What, No Mickey Mouse? – Ben Bernie and his Orchestra
Mickey Mouse and Minnie’s In Town – Don Bestor and his Orchestra
Mickey Mouse’s Birthday Party – International Novelty Orchestra
Whistle While You Work – Guy Lombardo and his Orchestra
The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down – Russ Morgan and his Orchestra
Powerhouse – The Raymond Scott Quintette
It’s A Hap-Hap-Happy Day – Bob Zurke and his Delta Rhythm Band
and, in honor of this week’s stunning new Popeye DVD Box set (Thanks, Jerry!)…
Popeye Medley (Extended-play featuring Floyd Buckley, “Radio’s Popeye,” singing ‘I’m Popeye The Sailor Man,’ ‘Let’s Build a Bridge Today,’ ‘Hamburger Mine,’ ‘Popeye on Parade,’ ‘Won’t You Come and Climb A Mountain with Me,’ ‘Clean Shaven Man,’ and ‘Brotherly Love’)

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